“When he was released, Dudko was finally given his own church. His message changed. Where he had preached harmony and hope, he now preached rabid nationalism and anti-Semitism. He died lonely and bitter and mad. In Oliver Bullough’s bleak, beautiful The Last Man in Russia, a mix of biography and reportage, Dudko’s journey from defiance to submission to self-destruction becomes the archetypal Russian story: a broken man representing a broken nation.”
From a review, here [ http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/04/22/the-last-man-in-russia-the-struggle-to-save-a-dying-nation.html ]
I’d like to read this book. I am immensely curious about people like Dudko. I think of Wilde, who quipped about how great strength is needed to fall into certain temptations. And I think of an old Jimmy Croce song from a Brad Solomon novel, “The Gone Man”, he sang–do you ha’ tha feelin’ tha you wanted to go/ An’ yet ha’ tha feelin’ tha you wanted to stay? And I think again of the Fourth Tempter from Eliot’s play “Murder. . .”, who offered what was inevitable to a proud man–to accept martyrdom for the wrong reasons.
I am curious about people like Dudko, like the man in the Californero’s song, people like Archbishop Becket, because I think of myself and question my immorality. I think I admire these tales of tempted men because I am not sure if it is true that there are no temptations for me, if it is true that all there is for me is choice, then will, then ability.
What are the things so similar to our true natures as that they are likely to break us were they offered by an enemy?
I am angry about the pseudo-literary/intellectual bullshit we let pass. So the internet has become open arena abi? The 20th century saw us getting worse and worse and worse! The “death of philosophy and art”, the “end of history”? And you did not know it was your own death knell?
We need to remind each other why the Humanities are so important. It is, in one phrase, “to keep philistinism at bay”. It is because music and light are as universal and mysterious as man and it is important to keep men aware of the mystery that is themselves, that sets them away from animals. And that music and light, whether in painting or writing, needs to be cultured.
When we let the pseudo-literary/intellectual take over on account of the validity of “opinion”, we mess with the culture of progress and enlightenment than we are at the end of. The Humanities are important for our self preservation. We really should not be irresponsible.
Don’t you think it is incongruous to accuse a writer of “arrogance” or being “egotistical” about a fiction he has written? Of course he knows that he knows his book better than you ever will. And what on earth is a book of fiction but the supreme creation of ego? Aren’t you far wrong to expect it to be otherwise?
Yet I hear these two words uttered as accusations!
There are few things a craftsman can be arrogant about and one of these is the work of his hands. Expect no prevarication from me on what I have done, I am confident about it, confident enough to give it to you to test and appraise it. In giving it to you, you get the right to appraise, you get a universal lease on it. But never forget that you are entering my world, not the other way around.
I am thinking about cliquey minded collectives and how interesting that, for purposes of psychology alone of course, a certain sort of artist cannot find validation in how well they pour themselves into their work. A lot of Nigeria’s young artists, in writing especially, posses talent but are lacking in authenticity, yet authenticity is what endures, for it is not a thing to be considered to be acknowledged by a fellow artist or a consumer of art. It is de-facto and in your face. It is not the same thing as talent, which merely produces some sort of original work.
Authenticity is what is there beneath the words, as potent as a slap or the hiss of a rattlesnake. It is the sense, for want of a better word, that gives a moral core to an artist. A moral core has nothing to do with morality. Cliquey minded collectives may produce original work, in literature and even art, but never authentic work. For the artists themselves are defective.
But then, there have been some for whom the lesser rung, mere originality or even less than this, is enough. To these unfortunates I say the salaam of politeness only.